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Large survey reveals that few MS patients have long-term care insurance



– A number of sociodemographic factors may influence health and disability insurance access by individuals with multiple sclerosis, including employment, age, gender, disease duration, marital status, and ethnicity, results from a large survey suggest.

Dr. Sarah Planchon, Mellon Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Sarah Planchon

“The last similar work was conducted over 10 years ago and so much has happened in the meantime, including the Great Recession and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, that offers protection for health care but not for other important types of insurance (short- and long-term disability, long-term care, and life),” lead study author Sarah Planchon, PhD, said in an interview in advance of the meeting held by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis. “MS is one of the most costly chronic diseases today. That is not only because of the cost of disease-modifying therapies but also because of lost employment and income. We wanted to better understand the insurance landscape so that we could in turn educate patients and professionals about the protection these insurances offer and advise them on how to obtain these policies.”

In an effort to evaluate factors that affect insurance access in MS, Dr. Planchon, a project scientist at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and her colleagues used the North American Research Committee on MS (NARCOMS), iConquerMS, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to survey 2,507 individuals with the disease regarding insurance, demographic, health, disability, and employment status. They used covariate-adjusted nominal logistic regression to estimate odds ratios for the likelihood of having or not having a type of insurance. The majority of respondents (83%) were female, their mean age was 54 years, 91% were white, 65% were currently married, and their mean disease duration at the time of the survey was 16 years. In addition, 43% were employed full/part-time, and 29% were not employed or retired because of disability. Nearly all respondents (96%) reported having health insurance, while 59% had life insurance, 29% had private long-term disability insurance, 18% had short-term disability insurance, and 10% had long-term care insurance.

The researchers found that employment status had the greatest impact on insurance coverage. Of those with health insurance, 33% were employed full-time, compared with 89% of those with short-term disability insurance, 42% of those with private long-term disability insurance, 44% of those with long-term care insurance, and 41% of those with life insurance. Logistic regression analyses indicated that respondents employed part time were significantly more likely to have short-term disability insurance if they were currently married (odds ratio, 4.4). Short-term disability insurance was significantly more likely among fully employed patients with disease duration of 5-10 years vs. more than 20 years (OR, 2.0). Private long-term disability insurance was significantly associated with female gender (OR, 1.6), age 50-59 years vs. younger than 40 (OR, 1.6), full-time vs. part-time employment (OR, 2.3), and shorter disease duration (ORs, 1.4-1.6 for 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20 years’ duration). Long-term care insurance was associated with older age (ORs, 2.5 and 4.3 for those aged 50-59 and 60-65 vs. younger than 40), and having excellent or good general health status vs. fair or poor (OR, 1.8). Life insurance was associated with non-Hispanic ethnicity (OR, 1.6), full-time vs. part-time employment (OR, 2.4), older age (ORs, 1.6-1.7 for ages 40-49 and 50-59 vs. younger than 40), and marital status (currently/previously married, ORs, 1.6-2.6). Considering the high rate of survey respondents with health insurance, covariate-adjusted modeling was not applicable.

“The number of people with MS who do not have long-term care insurance was surprisingly high,” Dr. Planchon said. “Although the improved treatment climate recently may decrease the long-term disability levels, we do not yet know this with certainty. A large number of people with MS are likely to need long-term care in the future, which often is a significant financial burden to families.” The findings suggest that clinical care teams “need to initiate early discussions of possible long-term needs with their patients,” she continued. “Incorporation of social work teams, who are familiar with the needs of people with MS and insurance options available to them, within MS specialty practices will bolster the comprehensive care of patients and their families.”

She acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the low proportion of respondents who were Hispanic/Latino and African American (about 4% each). “The insurance landscape may differ in these groups compared to the majority Caucasian population who responded to this survey,” Dr. Planchon said.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society funded the study. Dr. Planchon reported having no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Planchon S et al. ACTRIMS Forum 2019, Abstract P295.

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